As a nurse, dental health for my clients is a particular concern of mine. The human mouth is a bacteria haven, which works for our benefit in providing a defense against harmful materials. But, without proper oral care, those same bacteria can also cause infections in the mouth that, in turn, can enter the bloodstream and affect our whole system. The connection between poor dental care and other conditions is well documented.
Just to beat that idea home, consider that poor oral health has been associated with cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, premature birth, respiratory diseases, digestive disorders, and osteoporosis and may be a risk factor for Alzheimerˇ¦s. Those with diabetes are at high risk for infection as well as those with chronic inflammatory diseases and HIV/AIDS.
The disabled are at even higher risk. Side effects from medications can cause dry mouth or gingival hyperplasia (overgrowth of gums). The mouth and teeth can be damaged from falls and/or seizures, teeth grinding or clenching. Many disabled are affected by vomiting episodes or GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) in which stomach acid can reach the mouth and cause tooth damage. Cavities and gum disease are common for those who are unable to brush and floss their teeth without assistance.
Here are some ways to help take better care of your mouth and teeth and prevent oral disease:
1. Use toothpaste with fluoride and brush at least twice daily.
2. Ask your dentist to suggest a mouth rinse like chlorhexidine gluconate or a 50/50 mix of water and hydrogen peroxide.
3. Drink a lot of water each day.
4. Rinse the mouth with water after taking medications containing sugar.
5. Eat a healthy diet with less sugary snacks.
6. Find equipment like adapted toothbrushes that make brushing easier.
7. If you have or are caring for someone with a feeding tube, make sure the mouth is moistened and cleaned several times a day.
8. Floss daily.
9. See a dentist regularly.
10. Talk to your physician about the side effects of your medications and look for effective alternatives.
I work with several group homes that are fortunate enough to be seen by a mobile dental hygienist on a quarterly basis. They examine, clean and make recommendations for care to be followed up by a dentist. We are very grateful for this service. In addition, we have two dentists in our area who are experienced with care for the disabled community and have modified their offices for easy access. I encourage you to look for professionals in your area who are experienced with the unique needs of the disabled.
Your health depends upon the time and effort taken caring for your teeth, gums and mouth, so take good care of them. If you are a caregiver, make sure that mouth care is scheduled on a regular basis. Oral care is a relatively simple step in preventative care. Plus, it feels good to have a clean mouth and it is a great independent skill to master.
WaterPik FLA-220 Power Flosser, Battery Powered (Colors May Vary)
Philips Sonicare HX5351/30 Essence 5300 Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush